Justyna Toton Jun 07, 2024 - Robotics

Rendering reality: advanced 3D modeling with Robotec.ai

How do you design an automated future? You model it little by little to prepare autonomous vehicles for every weather condition, road scenario, and street blockage. Rendering digital environments with fleets of robots moving between halls is a crucial step in industrial automation. Last year we created a special ROSCon demo with 36 autonomous mobile robots and described the entire creation process on the blog. Advanced 3D modeling is one of the driving forces behind successful simulations. In the blog post, we give the voice to 3 of our talented 3D artists, Roman Petraszka, Tomasz Pasterak, and Monika Syruć, to dive into the world of 3D modeling.

The insights from modeling 3D Japanese towns

Our 3D modeling team is closely collaborating with our Japanese partner – Tier IV.

When you model the city, you immerse yourself in a new micro-universe of details. When Roman Petraszko recreated the buildings in the Japanese city of Komatsu, every detail of the local architecture, infrastructure, and transportation network mattered. First, he noted the popularity of low-rise buildings and visibly hanging wiring dictated by the high seismic activity in the region. Both have practical purposes: low-rise buildings are safer during earthquakes and it is easier to spot damaged parts in loosely hanging wires.

What can Roman say about the architecture? “Architecture in this city is quite diverse. You can see everything from one-story commercial buildings covered with corrugated steel sheets and traditional buildings to constructivist and even Art Nouveau buildings. Everything is connected to Japanese culture, I even found Japanese accents in Art Nouveau buildings on Doihamachi Street. Traditional solutions dominate the city”.

What is the difference between European and Japanese urban design? “Everything is compact: miniature lawns with miniature parking spaces for miniature cars. Every corner is in use. Nothing is placed without a clear purpose: everything has its place. Placards and warning bollards are everywhere: they illustrate what you can and cannot do publicly. You cannot park here, you cannot stop there. It is the same with traffic signs.”

How are adverts displayed in public spaces? “Even though Komatsu is a small city, there are many outdoor adverts there. They often cover the facade of buildings. In Europe, we try to get rid of adverts in public spaces, but in Japan, it seems to be the opposite. Lightboxes and billboards can add a touch of charm to cities, but their presence in models comes with its own challenges”.

What does the transportation system look like in Komatsu? “There is a strongly developed public transportation and car rental market. The city is quite compact so getting around the city in a private car can be quite problematic. There are many rental points, mostly around the airport if you need them. Rental cars are tiny – they are called kei cars. Even buses are not too big. What is special about them is their design: they are beautiful. Sometimes, when you travel around the city on Google Street View, you can see lovely compact cars available only in Japan”.

The Secrets of 3D Model Optimization

Now that we know the importance of details, how do we achieve a balance between the level of complexity and performance? We asked Tomasz Pasterak to share his insights on 3D Model Optimization.

According to Tomasz “optimization of models is one of the key project aspects for boosting the efficiency of scene processing. Optimizing 3D models is essential for smooth and realistic rendering in the era of increasingly complex graphics. How to do it? We reduce the number of polygons while preserving as much detail as possible. This allows the graphics processing unit (GPU) to process models faster, leading to higher frame rates and better image quality.”

Another important aspect is textures and reducing the need for computational resources for their display. How do we optimize them? Tomasz points out two distinct methods: atlases (using one texture to store the textures of many objects) and trim sheets (using one repeatable texture for a given type of model). Using trim sheets significantly reduces the need for textures and material but results in high repeatability.

Model optimization is also achieved by reducing the need for a mesh to represent details. Tomasz explains that “it can be done by using different maps (textures presenting a specific aspect of the model) such as normal map (Bump mapping) or Mask map. The latter (when you use HDRP in Unity) allows you to fit 4 different maps on one texture, encoding them in specific channels (RGBA). The topic is vast and can cover almost every aspect of scene creation (from lightning to code, scene building, and VFX).”

3D Plant Modeling: A Blend of Artistry and Simulation Precision

With the rise of agricultural robots (agribots) and autonomous tractors, the demand for robotics simulations is only growing. Our 3D team at Robotec.ai collaborates with different departments of our company to help agricultural companies automate their operations effectively. To bring entire fields to life in the digital twin environment, our 3D artists must recreate plants. Why is it important? According to our 3D artist, Monika Syruć “In the domain of agricultural simulations, the 3D modeling of plant life is more than just a visual task—it’s a critical component in the training of autonomous agricultural machines. These models serve as the virtual flora that these machines interact with, teaching their algorithms to navigate and operate amidst a variety of crops and conditions”.

Autonomous machines are trained to understand the world around them based on the information they are fed. Inaccurate representations of plants could hinder their capabilities to execute their tasks. As Monika explains, “the process of creating plants in 3D is similar to painting with a digital brush, where every stroke aims to capture the essence of real-world botany. Our objective is to replicate the natural details of plants so accurately that they not only look authentic but also behave predictably when engaged by the machines’ sensors”.

We must find a balance between performance and appearance. Monika lists her three tips for optimizing the performance:

  • Implementing Level of Details: this technique allows us to use highly detailed models only when necessary, such as when models are in close view of the camera, saving computational resources.
  • Applying Optimized Textures: we create textures that offer a realistic look without requiring too much processing power, ensuring the simulation remains immersive yet realistic.
  • Utilizing Efficient Geometry: Our models are constructed with the optimal number of polygons, providing the necessary detail without overloading the simulation.

Our artist emphasizes the importance of precision for autonomous agricultural machines, stating that “they must distinguish between crop types and navigate through them without causing harm, which is only possible with high-quality 3D models”.

Digital 3D modeling = effective real-world automation

Robotics simulations create new possibilities for decision-makers: they can thoroughly test every operational configuration for the best outcomes and return on investment. While changing the agricultural routes or switching the warehouse layouts merely for experiments can be expensive, testing different optimization ideas in the digital twin is a far more time- and cost-effective option. At Robotec.ai, we create simulations for multiple industries, from automotive and warehouse logistics to agriculture and mining. Testing possibilities are nearly endless: our teams use our simulation platform RoSi for an unlimited supply of annotated data to create testing scenarios (more about it in the blog post).

With a rich portfolio of projects under our belt, we have helped many companies seamlessly digitize their operations (here’s what we did for Boliden). You do not always have to revolutionize your operations to reap the best results: sometimes the smallest changes have the greatest impact. What if operational excellence is just a few renders away?

The article was created in collaboration with the 3D modeling department. Special thanks to:

✦ Roman Petraszka, 3D artist at Robotec.ai
✦ Tomasz Pasterak, Technical Artist at Robotec.ai
✦ Monika Syruć, 3D artist at Robotec.ai


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